We are a married professional couple in our late 30s, with a 2.5 yo and my parents in their 60s. This was our third cruise and my parents' second - first on RCCL for all of us.
Let me start off by saying that I have picky taste about almost everything and this was very much beyond my expectations. The service and effort of the crew made up for the few things that displeased me throughout the trip.
Leaving from Miami on Superbowl Sunday was probably not my most brilliant planning ever, but it actually went off ok. We took a van taxi from the airport to the port and had no problems. Once there, embarkation went very smoothly at 1:30 and we were able to go straight to our cabins.
8546 was a balcony cabin right by the forward elevators, great location, no noise and of course the cabin itself was beautiful. I really like the shower enclosure instead of curtains. The bedding was spectacular and super comfortable. I have to say, I wasn't really impressed with our room steward Erika. I essentially saw her twice during the week. The ice bucket was filled and the room cleaned, but I guess I expected more interaction. My parents requested an extension cord multiple times (for medical equipment) and ended up having to go to guest services to retrieve one. So - not so impressed.
The itinerary was good - but not great. The first day at sea the weather was miserable, rainy, windy and generally unpleasant. It was too cold to swim (IMHO) so we played putt-putt and went to the Aquatots play group. This was just a few toddlers sitting around playing with FisherPrice little people. There wasn't really any structure but DD didn't seem to mind, so why should I? Could have been longer (45mins).
Cozumel, it rained like he** in the AM. We went to Chankanaab which was beautiful despite the rain. My family swam with the dolphins which everyone loved and by then the rain stopped and we ate lunch and went swimming. They have a very nice pool and the ocean is great but there is only one place where you can walk in on the beach, most places it's a steep step-off due to the coral, a little rough for the older parents.
Grand Cayman was very nice, clean, polite, no pushy vendors. We did the Rays, Reef and Rum Point tour with Nativeway. The first part was a little stressful because half the tourists were from a Costa ship and spoke very little english. Our guides were english-speaking but with thick accents (Scottish, Dutch, GC) and so they could not understand one another and this made the instructions take longer than they needed to. BUT ... What a fabulous experience! The rays were cool, but the water and sand were the best I've ever had. I could have stood there on that sand bar forever. The water was choppy, so we went to the coral gardens instead of the reef and it was nothing special. Rum Point was nice and I'd like to go back and make a day of it sometime. The lunch was variable - skip the conch fritters, they were tough and overdone.
Jamaica was as billed, dirty, nice but pushy vendors. Apparently there is so much competition that the taxi/bus drivers try to keep you all day long because they will be unable to secure other fares if they have to go back and get on line. So we went to city center (small, gross, fake cuban cigars) and then to Sunset beach resort. Sunset was really nice. The facilities were clean and well maintained. The food was variable - I'm not sure if I don't like Jerk chicken or if theirs just wasn't good. But the drinks were plentiful and I easily drank my $42 worth! The beach was pretty and the water nice, although not good snorkeling. Lots of great, fun, clean pools as well. I would not rush to go back to Jamaica, but if I did would return to Sunset Beach.
Labadee was nice, but I was not as impressed as most seem to be. We were at Columbus Cove all morning - family went parasailing and all really seemed to enjoy it. I didn't see the rest of the areas, but the water where we were was nice, clean, warm. The food at the buffet was crap - sorry, but it was. The "chairmen" were irritating as were the musicians. I understand their need to make a living, but if I wanted to be hawked at all day, I'd go to Jamaica. RCI needs to pay them a living wage and then make them stop trying to sell my stuff while I'm trying to relax. Also, they asked us to get them food anddrink from the buffet. I find this very disturbing that RCI is not either feeding/watering them or paying them enough to do so themselves. There were also a lot of Haitians lingering outside the fence which I didn't exactly find comforting.
Last day at sea was better weather. We did the Aquatots thing again and then team trivia at the Schooner bar, which was lots of fun, even if we didn't win.
FOOD- The found was better than I expected. We ordered room service daily and this went off without a hitch. The choices on the menu were limited but I understand you can ask for other things and get them. Either way, it was fine.
We had lunch off the boat every day and so can't comment on the choices. I did try the pizza at Sorrentos a couple time and it was fine, not great, but edible.
We had dinner in the main dining room each night except one when we ate at Portofino. The dining room food was very good with the exception of the lobster which was AWFUL and the turkey which was dry and hard. On lobster night the shrimp that came with it was great and so they just brought me more of those and I was happy.
Portofino was excellent and well worth the extra money.
Of real note was the amazing service provided by our server Angelo and Oktay the assistant waiter. They provided care way above and beyond. Angelo even entertained my daughter so that I could finish eating - what a prince! And RCI did a great job matching our table mates. We sat with a couple of similar age who also had a two year old and their parents with them. They were great conversationalists and we had a lot in common. DD loved having another kiddo around.
Overall this was a spectacular vacation. We have already booked another RCI cruise for next February. Hope the Vision lives up to the Freedom!